Donald Trump Meets With The President Of The Virgin Islands & Other Briefs

Donald Trump is talking about having met with the President of the Virgin Islands (who technically would be himself). He says that tomorrow he will meet with the Commander-in-Chief of the US armed forces. He has also suggested that Mike Pence schedule a meeting with the President of the Senate. This is the guy who was boasting about his IQ earlier in the week.

Columbia is talking about hiring Hillary Clinton to be a professor. Can they afford her speaking fees? Do university’s have any form of ethics agreements before hiring someone? If so, they should know that she totally ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before taking her last job as Secretary of State.

Question of the Day: Which organization is more wracked in scandal and chaos: The Weinstein Co. or the Trump White House?

It makes perfect sense that Bernie Sanders was picked instead of Hillary Clinton to speak at the Women’s Convention. Unlike Clinton, Sanders has not promoted bombing of women around the world, has not defended the use of cluster bombs where women live, and has not backed taking welfare benefits away from women.

Eighteen states are suing the Trump administration over stopping the ObamaCare subsidies. The Pottery Barn Rule should now take effect with regards to Donald Trump and the Affordable Care Act–You Break It, You Own It.

I’ve been saying all along that the real Russia story is about the money, not altering the 2016 election results. NBC News is reporting that Paul Manafort had a $60 million relationship with a Russian oligarch.

Quote of the Day: “For the last 24 hours, Donald Trump has been the president of busy town. This morning, he signed an executive order to get rid of some key provisions of Obamacare. For instance, the care part.” –Stephen Colbert

Trump Called Schumer To Work On Health Care

Donald Trump lacks long term ties to the Republican Party, and has started to figure out that his best shot of passing legislation might be to work with the Democrats. If he can bring along part of the Republican Party he might have a better chance of passing legislation by working with the Democrats than by trying to pass legislation with Republican votes alone. With the inability of Republicans to repeal Obamacare, Trump has upset many Republicans by calling Chuck Schumer to seek a path forward on healthcare.

Trump previously worked with the Democratic leadership on three-month government funding measure, debt limit hike, and hurricane aid. He has also spoken with them about  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), with no agreement reached yet.

Trump has verified that he called Schumer on Twitter but so far Schumer has not seen a path for the two to work together. The Hill reports:

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Saturday he told President Trump that Democrats would be open to stabilizing the health-care system, but that another push to repeal and replace ObamaCare was “off the table.”

“The president wanted to make another run at repeal and replace and I told the president that’s off the table,” Schumer said in a statement on his call with Trump on Friday, news of which the president confirmed in a tweet.

“If he wants to work together to improve the existing health care system, we Democrats are open to his suggestions. A good place to start might be the Alexander-Murray negotiations that would stabilize the system and lower costs,” Schumer added.

This could be just the opening round as there is reason for Democrats to work with Trump if Trump is willing to agree to a satisfactory plan to stabilize Obamacare, as opposed to continuing to undermine the markets. Even without having the votes to repeal Obamacare, Trump can do considerable harm to the success of the Affordable Care Act. So far Trump has greatly cut funding for outreach to promote signing up for the plan and his actions are causing an increase in health insurance premiums. This week his administration has also acted to cut back on the mandate to cover birth control.

If Democrats do work with Trump, they will have to make sure that they are not just enabling him to further reduce health care coverage. On the other hand, if Trump is really willing to diverge from Republican orthodoxy, rather than demanding preservation of the Affordable Care Act the better course would be to promote a single payer plan as proposed by Bernie Sanders. While unlikely to happen, Donald Trump just might go for the idea of going down in history for delivering such a great accomplishment while president.

Gerrymandering Does Not Explain All Those Democratic Losses Over The Past Decade

Even before Democrats were blaming their losses on absurd claims about Russian meddling, they would often respond to data like I presented yesterday on Democratic losses by blaming gerrymandering. I would often point out that this does not explain the magnitude of Democratic losses over the last decade. Although many Democrats do not seem to understand how gerrymandering works, I would point out that it has zero bearing on state-wide races, including governors, Senators, and electoral votes in the general election. I would also point out that gerrymandering has often been done to protect the incumbents in both parties, and that Democrats have lost many elections based upon lines drawn while the Democrats were in power.

Democrats who ignore their actual problems, such as failure to stand for anything other than being slightly less conservative than Republicans, are not likely to give up on their favorite excuses. However, if they are willing to listen to another source, Jeff Greenfield has made many of the same arguments I have made in an article entitled The Democrats’ Gerrymandering Obsession–Turning to the courts won’t solve the party’s fundamental problem: connecting with voters:

What ails the party—at every level—goes far beyond alleged Republican skulduggery. And a diagnosis of those ills requires an understanding of what the past decade has wrought.

The Democratic Party, as I wrote here even before the 2016 wipeout, finds itself in its worst shape since the 1920s. From its perch in 2009, when it had a (shaky) filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, a 256-178 majority in the House and control of a majority of states, it has seen a precipitous collapse. That fall began in 2010, when a wave election brought a loss of 63 House seats, six Senate seats—and, most notably—massive loses at the state level. Republicans gained control of the Legislatures in North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, and won 29 governorships.

These defeats did not happen because of gerrymandering (or voter suppression, for that matter), because Democrats had control of the politics before 2010. (When Democrats had political control in North Carolina, for example, it had some of the most unrestrictive voting laws in the country.) In order for the GOP to use its power to entrench its majorities, it had to win those majorities in the first place. That happened because Republicans and their conservative allies poured resources into a workmanlike effort to win control over state politics, while Democrats were mesmerized by the more glamorous fight to win and hold the White House.

Well, isn’t extreme partisan gerrymandering still a noxious tool whose end would help Democrats? Yes, but not nearly as much as you might think. To understand that, look more closely at what has happened in the past four elections. In 2009, Democrats held 60 Senate seats. They now hold 48, counting the two independents who vote with them, Bernie Sanders and Angus King. Some of those losses came in deeply red states, but Democrats also lost seats in competitive places like Colorado, Iowa and Wisconsin. Governorships are now in Republican hands not just in battleground states like Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin but also in Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Vermont, where blue has been the predominant color for years.

What do governorships and Senate seats have in common? They cannot be gerrymandered. What has happened, rather, is that the Democratic Party has lost touch not just with the white working class, of which we’ve heard so much this past year, but with a much broader segment of American voters. When a party loses a statewide election, it’s not because their opponents have cleverly divided their voters into a district or two, or because their voters are “clustered” in a city or two; it’s the product of a larger political failure…

Fundamentally, the crux of the partisan gerrymandering issue is this: The Democratic Party might celebrate a Supreme Court decision that puts limits on the practice, but to substitute that hope for the work of winning elections again is not simply an illusion, but a highly dangerous one.

Republicans have taken advantage of gerrymandering and correction of some of the abuses will be beneficial, but as Greenfield wrote, Democrats are delusional if they blame all their problems on gerrymandering (or Russians), and even a favorable Supreme Court decision on gerrymandering won’t save the Democrats if they do not fix their fundamental problems.

Democrats Might Be Unable To Capitalize On Disgust For Republicans Due To Growing Disgust For Democrats Too

We very likely will see a wave election in 2018 which gives the Democrats the opportunity to pick up seats in protest against Donald Trump and the Republican Party. The Democrats have achieved victories this week in New Hampshire and Florida. However, there are also signs of danger for the Democrats, including lack of support among millennial voters and strong interest in a third party among all voters.

An NBC News/GenForward poll shows that Democrats cannot take millennials for granted:

Millennials overwhelmingly disapprove of the way President Donald Trump is handling his job and they don’t have a favorable view of the Republican Party. But Democrats shouldn’t celebrate just yet, according to results from the first NBC News/GenForward Survey.

A majority of millennials, 64 percent, disapprove of Trump’s job performance, while 58 percent said they have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party…

Millennials are a critical group for Democrats, and although they feel warmer toward the party than they do the GOP, they don’t feel overwhelmingly positive about either party.

Similarly, millennials were more likely to say the Democratic Party cares about people like them than the Republican Party does. Only three in 10 millennials said the Republican Party cares about people like them. Still, nearly half (46 percent) of millennials said they don’t think the Democratic Party cares about them.

In other words, millennials aren’t fully convinced that either party best represents their interests…

A majority of white millennials hold unfavorable views of both the Democratic Party (54 percent) and the Republican Party (53 percent).

Similarly, neither party has convinced a majority of white millennials that their policies are sufficiently concerned with people like them — 60 percent of white millennials said the GOP doesn’t care about people like them, and 55 percent said the Democratic Party doesn’t care about people like them.

Overall, a third of millennials (33 percent) said that neither party cares about people like them — a significant portion of young adults when considering the growth of the millennial electorate.

Antipathy towards both parties was also seen in a Gallup poll which shows that about sixty percent of Americans see a need for a third party:

Nearly twice as many Americans today think a third major party is needed in the U.S. as say the existing parties do an adequate job of representing the American people. The 61% who contend that a third party is needed is technically the highest Gallup has recorded, although similar to the 57% to 60% holding this view since 2013. Barely a third, 34%, think the Republican and Democratic parties suffice.

While more than three-quarters of political independents would prefer to have a third major-party player in the U.S. political system, Republicans and Democrats are closely split between favoring that and saying the current two-party system is adequate.

More specifically, 49% of Republicans think a third major party is needed, while 46% say the Republican and Democratic parties are adequate. The split is similar among Democrats: 52% would prefer having a third major party, while 45% prefer the existing two-party structure. Meanwhile, 77% of independents favor having a third major party, while just 17% think the Democratic and Republican parties are adequate.

Neither poll does a good job of looking at the reasons for dissatisfaction with both parties. I would attribute this to the Republican Party going batshit crazy, and the Democratic Party responding by trying to be just slightly less batshit crazy, while refusing to  stand up for liberal principles.

The Democrats had the opportunity to lock up much of the millennial vote in 2016 by nominating Bernie Sanders. Instead they used party rules in place since McGovern’s loss, along with further intervention in the process, to hand Hillary Clinton the nomination in a manner which was no different from choosing a candidate in the proverbial smoke filled rooms. This gave us a general election in which neither major party had an acceptable candidate, demonstrating the need for a third party. Unfortunately most of those who express the need for a third party did not actually vote for one.

This all leaves the question open as to whether Democrats will be able to take advantage of opposition to the Republicans, especially if they repeat the mistake they have made in recent elections and run as a Republican-lite party.

Republicans Surrender On Graham-Cassidy

It was already obvious by Saturday when I last wrote about it that the votes were not going to be there for Republicans to pass Graham-Cassidy. It became official today. Mitch McConnell announced that the Republicans will not be holding a vote on the bill, disappointing Donald Trump.

Republicans still might attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act beyond the current September 30 deadline to do this under budget reconciliation. Vox explained in considerable detail how this might be done. However, this would make changing the tax law more complicated, making many Republicans reluctant to go this route. There are already aspects of Trump’s plan which could cause serious headaches for many Republicans.

Last week Bill Cassidy faced the wrath of Jimmy Kimmel on health care. Last night, prior to the decision to cancel the vote on Graham-Cassidy, CNN held a debate on the law. Alternet reports that Bernie Sanders stole the show with quotes such as:

“These are wonderful gentlemen, and I know nobody up here wants to see anybody die. But you tell me what happens when somebody who has cancer, somebody who has a serious heart condition, somebody who has a life- threatening disease suddenly loses the health insurance that they have.”

“This [current] system is designed to make billions of dollars in profits for the insurance industry. We spend 12 percent to 18 percent to administer the incredibly complex hundreds of plans that we currently have. And with these guys, if they got their way, there would even be more plans, more bureaucracy, more complexity, more money going to the insurance companies.”

“So if we are serious about moving to a cost-effective universal health care, yeah, we do have to take on the insurance companies. They do not play a role in providing health care. Our money should be going to doctors, to nurses, to hospitals, not to the insurance industry or, in fact, the drug industry, which is charging us by far the highest prices in the world.”

While we do not know what the Republicans might do next to try to strip people of their health care coverage, it is a safe bet that the insurance and pharmaceutical industries will not be supporting Bernie Sanders if he runs for president in 2020.

SciFi Weekend: Star Trek Discovery; The Orville; Twin Peaks; Blade Runner; Sarah Jane Adventures Tenth Anniversary; Emmys By Network; Batman Takes A Knee

CBS has not released any screeners for Star Trek: Discovery, and has placed an embargo on reviews until the show airs. They did release the full title sequence today:

Despite the episode not being available, sites such as IO9 have posted guides like Everything You Need to Know About Star Trek: Discovery Before It Premieres based upon the information which has been released so far.

The first episode will air on CBS at 8:30 pm tonight, with the second episode following on their paid streaming service CBS All Access.  Season 1 will have fifteen episodes with the first eight episodes running September 24 through November 5. The season will return for the remaining episodes in January. CBS All Access is allowing one week free to check out the service. If you are undecided, consider waiting until later tomorrow, which will allow you to watch both the second episode this week and the third episode next week. Some people are thinking about waiting until towards the end, and then binging on each half of the season or the who season while only paying for one to two months.

Discovery will be available outside of the US and Canada on Netflix. I had contemplated using a VPN to stream the UK edition of Netflix, but Netflix has become very aggressive in blocking VPN’s.

A four-part comic will provide further backstory on the Klingons prior to the events of Discovery.

In preparation for tonight’s premiere, CBS arranged to have the U.S.S. Discovery fly above New York City. Video above. (Yes, there have been posts on line about how they staged this, but why ruin the fun?)

In unrelated Star Trek news, TrekMovie.com reports that Quentin Tarantino has expressed interest in directing a Star Trek movie.

The Orville has been difficult to characterize as it is neither straight drama or consistently humorous. While Star Trek: Discovery reportedly will be serialized, The Orville is basically stand-alone episodes heavily modeled after Star Trek: The Next Generation. Like classic Star Trek, The Orville has even made an attempt at looking at contemporary issues.

About A Girl received advanced publicity for tackling gender reassignment surgery. Just as the show has its limitations as both dramatic science fiction and as a parody, the handling of the controversial issue was also somewhat simplistic. Vox looked in more detail at how the issue was handled.

Of course we must keep in mind that Star Trek: The Next Generation was also weak through most of the first two seasons, until it ended the second season with the excellent cliffhanger, Best of Both Worlds. I’m hoping that Seth MacFarlane has the clout to keep the show alive to buy time for them to better figure out what to do with this series.

Kyle MacLachlan and Judi Dench brought the red room from Twin Peaks to The Late Late Show, frustrating host James Corden in the video above.

Wired has a look at Blade Runner 2049.

Bill Clinton is writing political fiction, just like Hillary. Bill is working on a novel with James Patterson entitled The President Is Missing. Hillary wrote a fictional account of the 2016 election in which Bernie Sanders was the villain and a character with her name was a progressive. Showtime has announced a deal to do a television adaptation of Bill’s book.

It is the tenth year anniversary of the release of The Sarah Jane Adventurers. To celebrate, the BBC is rebroadcasting three episodes and has an article posted entitled 5½ Reasons Why EVERYBODY should watch The Sarah Jane Adventures. From the article:

The show’s essential premise was simple. Take one former companion of the Doctor. Add some young sidekicks; season with familiar foes like Sontarans and the Slitheen and for good measure, throw in the Doctor himself for a couple of stories. Then stir them all together in two-part adventures where the planet’s in peril but our heroes still have time for a few one-liners and a group hug at the end.

Except, of course, it’s not as easy as that. SJA worked because it hit just the right blend of alien scares and human drama. The childless Sarah Jane gets a family. Her alien son learns what it means to be human. The cocksure Clyde Langer finds there’s more to this world than he ever imagined… Just like Doctor Who, it was a show that revelled in adventure but always found time to explore and celebrate its characters without patronising its audience.

The article noted appearances by both Matt Smith and David Tennant.

The Handmaid’s Tale was among the big winners at the Emmy Awards last week. I looked at the best political jokes from the awards ceremony earlier in the week. This included a video of the skit with Stephen Colbert and Jeffry Wright based upon Westworld. 

By now I’m sure everyone interested has already seen the full lists of winners and read plenty about the awards so I will not say much more here. I did find these lists interesting, showing the expected superiority of cable and streaming. Here is a list compiled by Deadline of those winning awards at last week’s ceremony:

HBO: 10
NBC: 6
Hulu: 5
Netflix: 4
FX: 2

The second list includes all those who won three or more awards, including the Creative Arts awards which were presented earlier:

HBO: 29
Netflix: 20
NBC: 15
Hulu: 10
ABC: 7
FX Networks: 6
Fox: 5
Adult Swim: 4
CBS: 4
A&E: 3
VH1: 3

Francesco Francavilla has tweeted a picture of Batman taking a knee, showing support for the NFL players who have been protesting racial injustice and police brutality by taking a knee when the National Anthem is played before the start of an NFL game. Donald Trump has demanded that the players be fired or suspended. This statement has been protested by players and owners, but now Trump also has to deal with Batman. Besides Batman, Trump is also opposed by the next best thing, Jim Harbaugh, who said, “No, I don’t agree with the president. That’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Update: Adding to responses from Michigan football heroes, Tom Brady said, “I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive.”

Bernie Sanders Speaks Out Against Interventionism And The War On Terror At Westminster College

On of my disappointments about the 2016 election (besides the nominees and the winner) was that there was relatively little talk of foreign policy. The general election had Hillary Clinton, one of the most hawkish candidates in history, running against Donald Trump, who was (and remains) totally incoherent on the topic. Bernie Sanders had a far better record, but preferred to run on economic policy as opposed to foreign policy. While he did criticize Clinton’s vote for the Iraq war and her support for regime change in Libya, these were not the main topics of the campaign. This week Sanders did deliver a foreign policy speech in Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri.

The Intercept says, This Is What  A Radical Foreign Policy Looks Like, and had the opportunity to interview him prior to the speech:

I ask him how such rhetoric differs from past statements in defense of the U.N. and of international cooperation offered by leading Democrats, such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.

“Excuse me.” Sanders doesn’t like to be interrupted. “Let me just talk a little bit about where I want to go.”

The senator makes clear that “unilateralism, the belief that we can simply overthrow governments that we don’t want, that has got to be re-examined.” After referencing the Iraq War — “one of the great foreign policy blunders in the history of this country” — the senator touches on another historic blunder which, to his credit, few of his fellow senators would be willing to discuss, let alone critique. “In 1953, the United States, with the British, overthrew [Mohammed] Mossadegh, the prime minister of Iran – and this was to benefit British oil interests,” he reminds me. “The result was the shah came into power, who was a very ruthless man, and the result of that was that we had the Iranian Revolution, which takes us to where we are right now.”

Does he regret not speaking with such passion, bluntness, and insight on international affairs during his failed primary campaign against Clinton? He shakes his head. “No, I think we ran the kind of campaign that we wanted to run.” There’s a pause. “But I think that foreign policy is clearly very, very important.”

Video above and the full text of the speech can be found here. After thanking Westminster College, Sanders began:

One of the reasons I accepted the invitation to speak here is that I strongly believe that not only do we need to begin a more vigorous debate about foreign policy, we also need to broaden our understanding of what foreign policy is.

So let me be clear: Foreign policy is directly related to military policy and has everything to do with almost seven thousand young Americans being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands coming home wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started. That’s foreign policy. And foreign policy is about hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying in that same war.

Foreign policy is about U.S. government budget priorities. At a time when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, foreign policy is about authorizing a defense budget of some $700 billion, including a $50 billion increase passed just last week.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time as the President and many of my Republican colleagues want to substantially increase military spending, they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have because, supposedly, they are worried about the budget deficit. While greatly increasing military spending they also want to cut education, environmental protection and the needs of children and seniors.

Sanders tied foreign policy to his economic views, and to climate change:

Foreign policy is not just tied into military affairs, it is directly connected to economics. Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country. This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much, and so many have so little – and when we advance day after day into an oligarchic form of society where a small number of extraordinarily powerful special interests exert enormous influence over the economic and political life of the world.

There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population – 3.7 billion people. There is no justification for the incredible power and dominance that Wall Street, giant multi-national corporations and international financial institutions have over the affairs of sovereign countries throughout the world.

At a time when climate change is causing devastating problems here in America and around the world, foreign policy is about whether we work with the international community – with China, Russia, India and countries around the world – to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Sensible foreign policy understands that climate change is a real threat to every country on earth, that it is not a hoax, and that no country alone can effectively combat it. It is an issue for the entire international community, and an issue that the United States should be leading in, not ignoring or denying.

Sanders expressed views which were far from isolationist, but which recognized the damage done by recent interventionism:

Some in Washington continue to argue that “benevolent global hegemony” should be the goal of our foreign policy, that the US, by virtue of its extraordinary military power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I would argue that the events of the past two decades — particularly the disastrous Iraq war and the instability and destruction it has brought to the region — have utterly discredited that vision.

The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of “America First.” Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability, and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.

Here’s a truth that you don’t often hear about too often in the newspapers, on the television, or in the halls of Congress. But it’s a truth we must face. Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long term impact that that action will have. Let me give you some examples:

In 1953 the United States, on behalf of Western oil interests, supported the overthrow of Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and the re-installation of the Shah of Iran, who led a corrupt, brutal and unpopular government. In 1979, the Shah was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What consequences are we still living with today?

In 1973, the United States supported the coup against the democratically elected president of Chile Salvador Allende which was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The result was almost 20 years of authoritarian military rule and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Chileans – and the intensification of anti-Americanism in Latin America.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the logic of the Cold War led the United States to support murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, which resulted in brutal and long-lasting civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

In Vietnam, based on a discredited “domino theory,” the United States replaced the French in intervening in a civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Vietnamese in support of a corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government. We must never forget that over 58,000 thousand Americans also died in that war.

More recently, in Iraq, based on a similarly mistaken analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, the United States invaded and occupied a country in the heart of the Middle East. In doing so, we upended the regional order of the Middle East and unleashed forces across the region and the world that we’ll be dealing with for decades to come.

He later described the global war on terror as a disaster:

But, I also want to be clear about something else: As an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting US national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.

In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world, using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties.

A heavy-handed military approach, with little transparency or accountability, doesn’t enhance our security. It makes the problem worse.

While highly critical of the policies of the Democratic Party establishment, as well as the policies of Donald Trump, the speech received very favorable coverage at The Nation. John Nichols wrote, Bernie Sanders Just Gave One of the Finest Speeches of His Career: Outlining a vision of an America on the side of peace and justice, the senator shredded Trump’s brutish foreign policies. Stephen Miles wrote, Bernie Sanders Just Gave the Progressive Foreign-Policy Speech We’ve Been Waiting For: The senator powerfully linked domestic and foreign policy in the context of massive global inequality.

Contrast this with what we are hearing from Hillary Clinton. As I recently wrote, reading Hillary Clinton’s memoirWhat Happened, is like reading a memoir from Jesse James which makes no admission that he ever robbed a bank. There was no mention of the wars she supported, her influence peddling, or her frequent support for policies which violate our First Amendment rights. Glenn Greenwald similarly wrote, The Clinton Book Tour Is Largely Ignoring the Vital Role of Endless War in the 2016 Election Result. Greenwald also noted “the broader Democratic Party desire to pretend that the foreign wars it has repeatedly prosecuted, and the endless killing of innocent people for which it is responsible, do not exist.” Both Greenwald and I have noted the recent study suggesting that this support for endless war has cost Democrats the support of many voters, contributing to their loss in 2016.

Reversing their support for perpetual warfare, as Sanders also advocates, is both the right thing to do, and would be a more sensible path towards reversing the serious losses faced by the Democratic Party over the past decade.

Jimmy Kimmel Again Becoming Major Defender Of Preserving Obamacare

If the latest Republican effort to strip people of their healthcare coverage fails, I Jimmy Kimmel just might become the front runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Jimmy Kimmel has once again been speaking out against the Republican efforts. First he had this monologue two nights ago:

Kimmel showed how Bill Cassedy was lying about his health care bill passing the “Jimmy Kimmel Test” with problems including failing to guarantee coverage of pre-existing conditions and failure to have a life time cap as are present under Obamacare. See the full monologe in the video above, with transcript here. Kimmel concluded:

But don’t take my word for it. Here are just some of the organizations that oppose this Graham Cassidy Bill: the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Arthritis Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis, the ALS Association, the March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Children’s Hospital of LA. Basically, any group you’ve ever given money to thinks this is a bad idea. Do you trust them, or do you trust him? OK?

So if this bill isn’t good enough for you, call your congressperson. That’s the number, go to your congressperson — whoever he or she is — (202) 224-3121. You have to do this; you can’t just click like on this video. Tell him this bill doesn’t pass your test.

And Senator Cassidy, you were on my show, you seemed like you were a decent guy. But here’s the thing. Nobody outside of your buddies in Congress wants this bill. Only 12% of Americans supported the last one, and this one is worse. Right now there’s a bipartisan group of senators working to approve the healthcare system we have. We want quality, affordable healthcare. Dozens of other countries figured it out. So instead of jamming this horrible bill down our throats, go pitch in and be a part of that. I’m sure they could use a guy with your medical background. And if not, stop using my name. Because I don’t want my name on it. There’s a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you. It’s called the lie detector test. You’re welcome to stop by the studio and take it any time.

When Republicans attacked, including their mouthpieces at Fox, Kimmel responded last night:

While other late night comedians are frequently making jokes about Donald Trump and the Republicans, it is unusual for a late night talk show host to get into the details of policy to the degree that Kimmel has with health care. Dean Obeidallah says he is also doing a better job than the Democrats:

Jimmy Kimmel has done again what Congressional Democratic leaders cannot: thrust the debate over how disastrous the GOP’s proposed healthcare plan would be for Americans with pre-existing conditions back into the national headlines. Sure, Democrats in Congress are objecting to the GOP proposal via press releases and on Twitter, but Kimmel has been clearly more effective at attracting media coverage on this issue…

Maybe if the Democrats had done as good a job selling the Affordable Care Act in the beginning, instead of going on the defensive, they wouldn’t be in this position. Fortunately Bernie Sanders is speaking out forcibly about an even more comprehensive alternative, Medicare for All.

Reading “What Happened” So You Do Not Have To

Reading Hillary Clinton’s memoir, What Happened, is like reading a memoir from Jesse James which makes no admission that he ever robbed a bank. She talked about trivial matters from her life, repeated her excuses blaming everyone else for her loss, and gave virtually no recognition of her dishonest actions and lifelong opposition to liberal values behind the opposition to her. What Happened  was previously used as a book title by former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan. Maybe she reused this title because Jeff Flake beat her to reusing the philosophically more honest choice, Conscience of a Conservative. Of course that would assume that she has a conscience, but she showed no signs of having one.

It is hard to see the point in this book beyond finger pointing. Clinton wrote:

At first, I had intended to keep relatively quiet. Former Presidents and former nominees often try to keep a respectful distance from the front lines of politics, at least for a while. I always admired how both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush avoided criticizing Bill and Barack, and how Bill ended up working with George H. W. on tsunami relief in Asia and Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast. And with George W. in Haiti after the earthquake in 2011. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

She should have ended the book right there.

In a rare moment of honesty, Clinton showed how clueless she is in writing, “in terms of fighting the previous war, I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t realize how quickly the ground was shifting under all our feet.” The only shifting Clinton has shown with the times has been to move on from blaming everything on the vast right wing conspiracy to blaming the vast left wing conspiracy against her.

She might briefly admit to a mistake, but it is quickly followed with a major but as she places the blame on Russia, James Comey, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, or others. If she did mention something she did wrong, it was passed over as a minor tactical error, ignoring the magnitude of her ethical lapses.

This week Bernie Sanders has been pushing for comprehensive, affordable health care for all Americans. Hillary Clinton is pushing a book which attacks the left and questions the validity of our electoral process (which she previously attacked Trump for threatening to do). She has opposed Medicare for All based upon false claims, continuing her long history of working to undermine liberal ideas.

While she launched numerous bogus attacks against others, she feels that her mistakes are too trivial to be considered. She wrote, “The truth is, everyone’s flawed. That’s the nature of human beings. But our mistakes alone shouldn’t define us. We should be judged by the totality of our work and life.”  Judging Clinton by the totality of her work and life, we must include her repeated push for neoconservative wars and regime change, her repeated advocacy of violating our First Amendment rights, her social conservatism, her support for the corrupting influence of money in politics, and her use of her position for personal financial gain–including violating the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Hillary Clinton wrote about her concern for children. In the real world, Hillary Clinton has shown her concern for children in other countries by dropping bombs on them and defending the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. There are also those who suffered from Bill’s welfare reform at home. However, “It was a hard call. Bill and I lay awake at night talking it over.”

Clinton shows no understanding of liberal or progressive values. While she mischaracterized Bernie Sanders’ platform as offering everyone a pony, it is actually Clinton who sees liberalism as little more than government giving out ponies, even if smaller ones than she believes Bernie Sanders would. She has no understanding of how true liberal and progressives would change the status quo, no concept of the human rights we defend, and no concept of what is wrong with her interventionist views.

Her ignorance of liberal concepts of human rights would explain how she totally misunderstood the warnings of George Orwell. To an authoritarian such as Hillary Clinton the lesson of 1984 is that we should not question our political leaders, the press, or experts:

Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism. This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered. The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust toward exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves.

On the other hand, Clinton is quite skilled in using Orwellian techniques to attack her political enemies. She uses the same types of distortions against Bernie Sanders as she did during the campaign, and as she used against Barack Obama in 2008. I have already responded to some of the attacks against Sanders here, and also recommend this rebuttal of Clinton’s arguments by Les Leopold. While reading What Happened I came across another fallacious attack on Sanders. Clinton wrote, “After the election, Bernie suggested that Democrats should be open to nominating and supporting candidates who are anti-choice.”

No, that is not what happened at all. On the other hand, the Democratic establishment has shown how they are willing to ignore reproductive rights. Clinton herself has also been to the right of Sanders on the issue, including her support for parental notification laws and expressing a willingness to compromise with Republicans. This is not surprising in light of her personal social conservatism on the issue and her mantra of keeping abortion”safe, legal, and rare,” stigmatizing women who have had an abortion.

Her attempts to falsely portray Sanders as being to the right of her on abortion are similar to her claims of being to the left of Sanders on gun control, despite having run in 2008 as a “pro-gun churchgoer.” Of course while attacking Sanders and blaming him for her loss she overlooked the degree to which Sanders campaigned for her after the primaries were over. Her antipathy towards a fair democratic process includes a visceral objection to being challenged for political office.

Clinton was no more honest in discussing the scandals which rightfully harmed her campaign. For example, she misquoted from the State Department Inspector General report to falsely make it look like the report supported her actions in the email scandal. In reality, the Inspector General report said exactly the opposite in showing how she violated policy. As we saw during the campaign, she keeps repeating the same lies about the scandal, including the statements from James Comey, regardless of how often the media fact checkers show that she is outright lying.

She attempted to open up personally, but even then wasn’t entirely honest. Among the more unbelievable lines, Clinton wrote, “For me, fund-raisers were a little more complicated than other campaign events. Even after all these years, it’s hard for me to ask for other people’s money.”

Among the other personal discussions in the book, Clinton wrote, “Bill and I bought our home in 1999 because we loved the bedroom.” Now try to get that image out of your mind.

Actually what she wrote after this was quite tame, including a description of the vaulted ceiling, windows, and photos. And then, “After waking up, I check my email and read my morning devotional from Reverend Bill Shillady, which is usually waiting in my inbox. I spend a few minutes in contemplation, organizing my thoughts and setting my priorities for the day.” The rest of us will not be able to see the writings of Bill Shillady as his publisher has pulled his planned book, entitled Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, due to plagiarism.

Of course, as was inevitable, I am seeing defenses of What Happened claiming that disagreements with Clinton’s book are based upon misogyny. What an intellectually and morally bankrupt viewpoint. Do such Clinton supporters have even a shred of integrity? I am just relieved that Hillary Clinton is not in the White House, leaving us to contend with claims that our objections to whatever war she wanted to start, or whatever violation of the First Amendment she was advocating, was based only on sexism.

Clinton Must Have Been A Really Weak Candidate To Be Beaten By Russian Facebook Ads

With claims that Russia hacked the election looking questionable, there has been increased concentration on the Russian propaganda argument this week, primarily based upon claims that Russia spent $100,000 on Facebook ads. Clinton must have been a really weak candidate if she lost the election due to Facebook ads bought by Russia.

Political Wire put this in perspective, showing how silly an argument this is:

The problem is that $100,000 — which bought about 3,000 ads — is inconsequential for Facebook. Just last quarter Facebook earned $9.3 billion. At that rate the company could earn $100,000 in just over a minute.

It’s not much for a presidential campaign either. According to Open Secrets, the presidential candidates spent $2.3 billion last year. Many donors to Super PACs gave millions by themselves. The $100,000 spent on Facebook disinformation from Russia is a rounding error.

The idea that $100,000 could swing a presidential election is silly.

We know for a fact that Clinton spent far more on propaganda promoting her, including a strong presence on social media. Why do some think that only the Russian propaganda influenced the election?

There are also reports claiming that Russia was secretly behind right wing demonstrations in Texas and Idaho, organized by fake Facebook groups before the election. Do people seriously think that Clinton would have won either Texas or Idaho if not for such Russian meddling?

In related debunking of excuses for Clinton losing to Donald Trump, Matt Bai dismissed the misogyny excuse:

Gender, while always an added challenge, never defined Clinton’s candidacy. And on the list of challenges that made Clinton a less than ideal candidate — her age, her perceived entitlement, her family history of scandal, her limited skill as a persuader — the fact that she was a woman probably hovered somewhere near the bottom.

In fact, you could make a reasonable case that, just as race actually helped Obama by giving white voters a chance to feel they were turning the page on an ugly historical chapter, gender probably benefited Clinton to some degree, too.

A lot of women who weren’t so excited by her personally were nonetheless inspired to support her candidacy anyway, because of the change she symbolized. That passion, more than anything else, probably enabled her to hold off Bernie Sanders’s ideological insurgency in the primaries.

Actually I would say it was a combination of Democratic Party rules going back to McGovern to promote more conservative candidates like Clinton, along with unprecedented interference by the DNC in 2016, which enabled her to hold off Bernie Sanders. There were also many reasons beyond those he listed which contributed to her loss.

He is right, though, in questioning whether her gender helped her. Most of those who would never vote for a woman would also never vote for a Democrat. While it is questionable how many votes she actually lost due to misogyny, her gender did influence many Democratic voters. A male running with her record and conservative views would have been a third tier candidate with no chance of winning, but far too many people ignored the facts in order to vote for a woman candidate. Unfortunately it was the wrong woman.

(Claims of Russian interference and misogyny are two excuses often used by Hillary Clinton, including in her fictional account of the 2016 election, What Happened. I am reading What Happened so you will not have to. I have started posting excerpts on my Facebook page, and will post them on the blog in the near future.)